In Need of a Transition?

jill carstens

Most of us in Colorado are rejoicing in the freedoms that vaccination has offered us after  surviving a crazy year. The future is definitely looking brighter, yet it is not as if those challenges we experienced just disappear without leaving some sort of scar in their wake.  Without really realizing it, many of us may be experiencing a form of PTSD.

Adrienne Heinz, a research psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, interviewed in a March 2021 Wired Magazine article, likened our recovery from the pandemic to the end of a war, “When you get that vaccine shot in your arm, it’s not like some switch will flip and your stress will melt away. Neurobiologically, it doesn’t work like that. Just because a war is over, doesn’t mean that what happened during the war doesn’t still activate you, doesn’t still haunt you in some ways. There’s a healing that will need to take place.”

So we survived a year of fear, of unknown consequences, and we coped by enacting new routines for ourselves and our loved ones in the space of quarantine. Some of those new routines were rewarding, even transformational. 

A dear friend of mine has always worked a 60-70 hour work-week, often travelling and then juggling the schedules of her teenagers and husband. During the pandemic she worked from home.  Her teenage girls were able to witness how hard their mom worked, developing a wonderful respect and understanding for the reality of their mom’s life.  Mom, in-turn, learned the intricacies and challenges of her teens’ social lives and school work-load. Bolstered by “bonus time” without having to commute to school or work, this family came together more often for dinners. The result being a family that really got to know each other better by witnessing each other’s challenges first hand, within the home.

Some of you might remember an article I wrote at the beginning of the stay-at-home order where I encouraged us all to try to embrace this time of slow, indulge our curiosities and what-ifs, knowing this quieter time might not last. I wondered and hoped if we would learn from this time.

We might have gotten a little sick of our families this winter, huddled together in one space, but I think the idea of “quality time” came to fruition. I remember hearing many people share that their 2020 holidays were some of the best they’d had, experiencing stress-free celebrations without the obligation of travel, simplifying down to our most immediate family. Also, that threat of getting the virus urged a lot of us to finally appreciate what we have.

Another mom I chatted with recently expressed that her young kids were back to weekend soccer and birthday parties, which take up most of the weekend. She was missing the regular bike rides her family had taken up several times a week during quarantine. Things were slow then, but now they seem really fast…

This is where I dare to suggest that we need a transition between the slower pace of the pandemic and the warp speed at which we seem to be existing now. The world does not always provide us with transitions. I feel like lately all I have to do is walk outside my door where I literally hear a collective urgency buzzing all around in the effort to return to normal and make up for lost time.  Was it all lost time?

The idea of a transition is a healthy one, but we will have to provide it for ourselves.

What if you said no to some things?

We can’t necessarily change how our culture works, but we can take more control of our own lives and learn from what did transform in positive ways during the pandemic.  What if that one mom tried to make at least one bike ride a week still happen for her family? What if my friend asked her boss if she could work from home more permanently instead of going back to commuting over an hour a day?

One way or the other, let’s do ourselves a favor and take that breath, be ok with slowing down sometimes, cook a meal, invite your spouse on a walk, sit on the porch, and say hi to your neighbor again.


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